So, you are thinking about selling your house without a realtor? Why wouldn’t you?! The commission is a whopping 4-6%, and traditionally, the seller is the one paying it. Sure, it would be a marvel if you could go through the process without a realtor. The big question here is: how?
For any DIY project, two main factors need to be clear as daylight for us: the premise and the tasks. So, if you want to be your own agent in selling your house, you must have a full grasp of the real estate market and the job description of a listing agent.
To have the big picture and the details regarding For Sale By Owner (FSBO), first, we’ll review the role of the middle person in the real estate market. After that, we’ll go through all the tasks involved in selling a house without a realtor. In the end, you are well-informed to decide whether selling your house without a realtor is for you.
Table of Contents
The Intermediaries in the Real Estate Market
The digital era made many changes in our transactions; one was eliminating the middle person through the internet. The consumer gets connected to the manufacturer directly, which profits them both. Real estate agents are a clear-cut example of traditional intermediaries. Yet, even after the wave of digitalization, they are still standing. In 2022, according to the Generational Trend Report of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 90% of all sellers used an agent or broker to sell their house.
So, how come the real estate market has kept its traditional structure? Studies have tried to explain the current status. According to one research, cutting the middle-person in a market with few suppliers is easier. For instance, since there are limited airlines, each can sell their tickets directly and avoid going through a travel agency.
With that logic, the real estate market is an endless ocean of suppliers, every house owner being one. There should be powerful cyber intermediaries in such markets to bypass the brokerage system. Take websites like Zillow; they gather all the sellers and buyers in one online marketplace. But do they?
With buyers, going online is the easiest option. You can look for your house at work or on the commute and save time and energy. For sellers, the story is a bit complicated. They have to make preparations before listing their property, arrange the showings independently, assess the offers, and draw the paperwork.
As you can see, going online is the first choice for buyers, but it is not for sellers. This scenario keeps the market in its traditional format. Buyers know that not all sellers are listed on FSBO websites, so they turn to agents. Buyers are aware that agents have access to Multiple Listing Services, where ALL houses for sale are listed. On the other hand, sellers are deterred by the troubles of marketing their property on their own and choose to go with an agent. Because of all this, FSBO websites only cover approximately 10% of the houses on the market.
Understanding the real estate market’s structure is paramount when selling a house without a realtor. You must know how the market works to make it work for you. Now that you are familiar with the setting, we can move to the next part: understanding the tasks you want to DIY.
Required Tasks for Selling a House
We may discuss “selling a house without a realtor,” but the hidden title is “how to be your own realtor.” You need to track a selling agent’s steps to sell your house. You would follow these steps but with your pace and available tools. Let’s begin:
An agent would start the research by preparing a Comprehensive Market Analysis (CMA). That is the first step in setting the asking price. Competent realtors are on top of the changes in the market, local and national. They usually work in a specific area and know the sale prices of the houses in the neighborhood.
Your starting point would be talking to people you know. The following are the topics of your field research:
- Neighborhood prices: You should ask your neighbors to see if someone has recently sold their house or has put theirs on the market. Check their asking price and the final deal. See how long the house was on the market and how many offers it received. It would be good to list these properties’ features (Square footage, number of bedrooms, bathroom, attics, garage space, HVAC system, yard, balcony, etc.)
- Similar experience: You can consult people who have sold their property by themselves. Talk about the experience and see how they assess the cost and benefit.
- Marketing techniques: If there is an open house around, check it out. Walk in the buyer’s shoes to mark the critical aspects. Look up the listing ads and familiarize yourself with the structure. If an ad stands out, ask yourself why? And take note of the reasons.
- Buyer’s experience: Chat with a friend or family member who recently bought a house. Ask them about the process and deciding factors for their purchase. See if the seller had an agent and how it would feel from their perspective.
- The property: This item may be surprising, but sometimes the amount of stuff we don’t know about our house is even more so. Therefore, get to know your home all over again and make a list of all its features, both above and underneath the surface.
Once your research is done, you can set the asking price with reasonable wiggle room (around 1%). This stage is essential because incorrect pricing can hinder the sale process. Asking too high or too low compared to other listings can deter prospective buyers and their agents.
It would be best if you had an unbiased evaluation to have a clear picture of your property. Whether you like it or not, people are usually emotionally attached to their homes. That attachment makes a house a home and can be helpful in the selling process, but not now. At this point, you need to see your house from the buyer’s perspective. So, if you can’t detach yourself, ask a friend to put on their skeptical glasses and give you an assessment on the following:
- What needs to be repaired
- What needs to be replaced
- What needs to be removed
- What needs to be cleaned
You can always use an inspector for this task, especially if your property requires more in-depth repairs.
Eliminating flaws (Mend, Move, and Make Clean!)
Once you’ve got the diagnosis, comes the treatment! You should decide what flaws you are going to fix and prioritize them. Use your muscle and expertise to stay on the budget. If that’s not an option, use your network and find professionals who work well and promptly: painters, handypersons, landscapers, electricians, plumbers, cleaners, etc.
The level of cleaning depends on your property’s maintenance. However, the result should be, in a word, spotless. When you finish this part, your house will be “presentable” and ready to be shot.
The images are the most crucial part of any real estate marketing effort. Research shows that 95 percent of homebuyers are first drawn to the pictures while checking real estate websites. Suppose you want your property to move fast in the market. In that case, you need to budget for professional photography and editing services.
You can also DIY this part, but only if you are ready to learn about real estate photography and have a knack for it. You can rely on editing services to do the rest as long you get the right angle and form a decent composition. There are visual packages available online, and each of these services can raise the “wow” factor of your property.
Image enhancement: This service entails vast adjustments, including Exposure correction, Color adjustment, Straitening the Lines, Noise reduction, HDR processing, Cropping, Removing shadows, Eliminating blemishes, Turning the lights on, Adding fire to the fireplace, Overlaying an image on TV or monitor, Changing the sky, and Masking the windows.
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Item Removal: You may have to put some stuff in storage during the showings, but if you can’t do that before shooting, you can have decluttered images with the item removal service.
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Virtual staging: you won’t have to go through the trouble of staging. Virtual staging is your buddy if you want a different design for your listing images or are selling a vacant house. All the furniture and decorations will be added to your photos.
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You have the price, you did the fix-ups, and you’ve got the photos. It is time to market your house. During your field research, you have understood what works. Now you can use these marketing techniques:
- Get a “For Sale by the Owner” sign: Putting this sign informs the neighborhood and by-passers.
- List your property on all FSBO websites: These sites are dedicated to people willing to sell their houses without an agent. Various websites, some dedicated to real estate and others offering classified advertisements, allow owners to list their property for sale. Some are free, and you need to pay a fee for others. The top free websites are:
- Spread the word: Let your friends and family know you are selling and ask them to share the news. Many prefer to buy their house from a trusted seller. Make a distinctive ad including all the details about the property and enlist your contact information. You can also add the link to the site where you have listed your house. Share it via email and social media. If you have used a local service provider, you can see if they want to share your ad while telling their story. If you have the expertise, set up a website exclusively for your house and share the link. You can always go for more traditional methods like flyers and newspaper ads if they work in your area and community.
- Hold an open house: Usually, with open houses, the owner is not present at the property. Remember that sentimental attachment? It can be a barrier if you’re there. Prospective buyers and their agents are supposed to be judgmental, which can be too much to handle. Ask a trusted friend or family member to host the open house if you can’t take it. Lock up your valuables to avoid any misunderstanding later. If you have pets, make the property appear as if you don’t.
- Get listed on MLS: Only real estate agents have access to MLS, but by paying a flat fee, you can also ask one to list your property.
- Handle private showings: Future buyers often like to visit the house in person and inspect it freely. If you have to be there and cannot set a lockbox, don’t hover. Remove yourself from the estate and let them feel at home. They won’t buy it if they can’t picture it as their home.
- Implement a follow-up system: many may visit your property and show interest. But at the end of the day, you will have one buyer. To ease the process of elimination and keep up with interested buyers, you’ll need a follow-up system. You can do this by email, text, or call, depending on the standard operation in your community.
That is the part you have to deal with offers. If you receive multiple offers, you can let other interested buyers know there is an offer on the table and see if they raise theirs. If the buyer has an agent, which is often the case, you are dealing with a pro. So, read up on negotiation techniques and beware of pitfalls.
At this time, you are dealing with contingencies, inspections, and vetting the buyer. You should make sure of the buyer’s financial status. You can see if they have been pre-approved for their mortgage.
Read the content of your purchase agreement thoroughly. Both parties’ obligations must be clearly stated. For instance, regarding the property’s final status, it would be beneficial to have the final walkthrough close to the closing date. You can also clarify the level of cleaning; “Vacant and broom swept clean” is the standard.
Keep in mind that realtors mostly have Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance to cover their mistakes. Since you are short on E&Os, thoroughly research your circle of trust or your trusted lawyer before signing the purchase agreement.
Pros and Cons of Selling a House Without a Realtor
Now that you know what selling a house on your own entails, we can assess its advantages and shortcomings. We can also take into account how other actors in the real estate market perceive this DIY project:
|Lack of knowledge and experience
|More control over the sale
|More work and responsibilities
|More dedication to the process
|Difficulty in reaching potential buyers
|Faster sale process
|Increased risk of legal issues
|Having first-hand experience
Less appealing for buyer’s agents
The pros and cons of this DIY project depend strongly on your capacity to replace a listing agent. As we have demonstrated, selling a house requires considerable time and energy. Therefore, this decision’s actual pros and cons rely on your execution.
If you do proper research and take on the work, then you can actually save on the costs and pick up the pace. Otherwise, your lack of experience can cost you more than the agent’s commission. If you go for low-quality amateur service providers, get emotional during showings, and handle the process unprofessionally, buyers and their agents will run towards the door.
Our goal in this blog was to give a detailed picture of what it is to sell a house without a realtor. Fully understanding the ambiance of the real estate market and players in the field is vital for this undertaking. Additionally, you must beware that “selling without a realtor” means “you are replacing the realtor.” Whether to go for this option or not is up to you. Knowing your capabilities and limitations is essential to make wise decision.